by Rev. Dale Azevedo, Sr. Minister – February 1, 2017
“Hey, you got chocolate in my peanut butter!”
“And you got peanut butter on my chocolate!”
For many churchgoers, that is the reaction to mixing religion and politics. The idea of allowing church and politics to intermingle is distasteful and abhorrent. It can lead to division and hostility within the Body. So, in response, many of us compartmentalize our faith being sure to keep it sanitized from anything dirty or unpleasant like politics, work, or personal finances.
This may come as a surprise to folks at BCCUCC, but in the past I was guilty of this. The diverse political views present in the pews along with my aversion to upsetting people often led me to keep politics at an arm’s length in worship. It just wasn’t in my nature to rock the boat.
However, a few years ago that changed. Witnessing the spate of killings of black men throughout our country in 2015 and 2016 forced me to begin to speak out. I felt a strong Divine call to preach on racism and white privilege. This calling only intensified through this past election season. I felt compelled to echo with the voices of Christ and the prophets in the face of the overt discrimination and alienation of our nation’s most vulnerable members. God will not let me remain silent.
Of course, entering the realm of politics is nothing new for some areas of our faith. The “religious right,” as it has been called, has been active in politics for decades. And as a church pastor, I regularly receive mailings from various Christians and Christian organizations demanding that I step up and preach “the Bible” by condemning homosexuality, “gay marriage,” and “the liberal agenda that is destroying our country.” My most recent letter challenged me “in the name of God” to preach support of a certain political party and candidate “even at the risk of losing [our church’s] tax-exempt status.”
I agree with these letters on one point, it is not time to be silent on this front. When political leaders speak out or enact policies that are in direct conflict with our understanding of God’s call for us, we need to speak up and be heard. We owe it to our faith. We owe it to our neighbors. We owe it to God. The Bible is rife with examples of how our faith is supposed to influence our politics. Moses clearly states that Israel’s law is supposed to protect the alien, the poor, and the most vulnerable (Deut 10:18, Zech 7:10). The psalmists and prophets regularly challenge the rulers of Israel to rule with justice and righteousness (Ps 33, 89, 98). Mary praised God for bringing down the mighty from their thrones and lifting up the lowly (Lk 1:52-53). Jesus calls us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and work for peace (Mt 5:1-12). All of these things have political ramifications. They are demands of our society as a whole and the political structures that govern it.
Maybe politics and religion aren’t “two great tastes that go great together,” as Reese’s says, neither are they aspects of life that should be kept in isolation. Our faith MUST inform our political views. And, when politics fails to uphold the values we hold dear, we MUST be dig deep and find the courage to speak out; whether that be in the home, on the street corner, or from the pulpit. Christ expects no less from us.
For an excellent example of this, listen to Rev. Brendan’s sermon from January 29, 2017.
For other blog posts from our pastors, be sure to check out the main page, From the River’s Edge.